Philip Larkin and the Movement

  • Stephen Regan
Part of the The Critics Debate book series (TCD)


Discussions about poetic groups and movements are often confusing and misleading. Some critics have a tendency to approach literary history with simple formulas or convenient labels, thereby effacing the complex social and cultural dimensions of particular literary works. In the case of Philip Larkin, a good deal of critical debate has been concerned with the existence — real or imagined — of a group of writers known as the Movement. The common assumption is that the Movement was largely a reaction against the inflated romanticism of the 1940s, a victory of common sense and clarity over obscurity and mystification, of verbal restraint over stylistic excess: in short, the virtues of Philip Larkin over those of Dylan Thomas. Those critics who admire the rationalism of Larkin’s verse have been concerned to emphasise the importance of the Movement and its continuing influence in contemporary poetry; some have gone so far as to claim for the Movement a significant place in a tradition of modern poetry — usually dubbed `the English line’ — extending back through Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy to the poetry of William Wordsworth.


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© Stephen Regan 1992

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  • Stephen Regan

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